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BAGHDAD Nov. 15, 2005 — More than 170 malnourished detainees found at an Interior Ministry detention centre in Baghdad appear to have been tortured, the Iraqi prime minister says.
The announcement by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, came two days after US troops surrounded and took control of an Interior Ministry building in the Baghdad neighbourhood where the detainees were found.
“I was informed that there were 173 detainees held at an Interior Ministry prison and they appear to be malnourished. There is also some talk that they were subjected to some kind of torture,” al-Jaafari told reporters. Al-Jaafari said said an investigation had been launched.
An Iraqi Interior Ministry official also said that an investigation will be opened into allegations that ministry officers tortured suspects detained in connection with the country’s on going fight against the foreign military presence in the country.
Al-Jaafari said the detainees were moved into a better location and “medical care will be given to them”.
More to follow soon as news develops »»
The BBC’s Caroline Hawley in Baghdad says the discovery will not come as a surprise to many Iraqis. There have been persistent allegations of abuse by members of the Shia-dominated security forces, our correspondent says.
But Sunday’s discovery is hard evidence and officials believe it may be the tip of the iceberg.
There are suspicions the building may also have been used as a base for a militia called the Badr Brigade, which has links to senior government officials, our correspondent adds. The facility is reported to be in the central Jadiriya district of Baghdad.
NYT (AP) Nov. 15 — “According to our knowledge, regrettably, all the detainees were Sunnis,” Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, head of the Iraqi Islamic Party, told The Associated Press. “In order to search for a terrorist, they used to detain hundreds of innocent people and torture them brutally.”
Most insurgents are Sunni Arabs, who were dominant under Saddam Hussein’s regime but lost power after his ouster.
The Interior Ministry is controlled by Shiites. Sunni leaders have accused Shiite-dominated security forces of detaining, torturing and killing hundreds of Sunnis simply because of their religious affiliation.
The U.S. Embassy issued a statement late today saying that both Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, had discussed the case “at the highest levels” of the Iraqi government. “We agree with Iraq’s leaders that the mistreatment of detainees is a serious matter and totally unacceptable,” the statement said.
The Pentagon spokesman said the discovery at the facility “was clearly something that was concerning, and was appropriately looked into by the Iraqi forces with the support of the coalition.” He said it was not a U.S. military-run facility and that he does not believe the American military was involved in the investigation.
Amnesty International also said it had recently received information of four people who were tortured while detained by Iraqi security forces.
“Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.”
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